So … what’s on your bucket list??
Ever since her first visit to Mackinac Island some years ago, Flower Chick always wanted to take in all of Mackinac’s sights up close by walking the island’s 8+ mile perimeter …
Well, we’re here! And since it’s always great to have some friendly company, join us on the spectacular one of kind eight mile walk around the Mackinac Island perimeter. A great place to start your walk is at Mile Marker 0, located at the State Park Visitor Center on the eastern edge of downtown.
From downtown, we’ll head past Mission Point and spectacular Arch Rock, then head to the island’s northern most point, Point Aux Pins. From there, follow along as we trek Mackinac’s west side, from British Landing down along the west bluff past the Grand Hotel and into downtown …
Did You Know? The road encircling Mackinac Island is Michigan State Route M-185, which was built between 1900 and 1910. The road wasn’t paved until the 1950’s. Besides snowmobiles in winter, the only motorized traffic allowed are a handful of emergency and public service vehicles …
Walking the perimeter of Mackinac Island will take you about 3.5 hours, including short rest breaks and a stop for a casual lunch (and we’ve got just the place for you!). Put on your good walking shoes, bring your camera, water, and sunscreen. We’ll point out the mile markers for you and showcase some of Mackinac Island’s unspoiled natural beauty along the way …
Mackinac Island’s perimeter is officially 8.2 miles, with Mile Marker 0 serving as the starting and finishing point. Although 8+ miles is quite a hike, the walk is not unduly strenuous. Down at the shoreline, the island is quite level and flat and as such, there aren’t any difficult hills to climb unless you venture inland …
With that said, welcome to Flower Chick’s ongoing “Visiting Midwest Gardens” series for a walk around the perimeter of Mackinac Island!
Mile Marker 0 – Start The Journey
Your starting (and ending) point for a Mackinac Island perimeter hike is here at Mile Marker 0. It’s located at the Mackinac State Park Visitor Center, adjacent to the harbor. This is one of many world class photo opportunities you’ll encounter!
Did You Know? Mackinac Island was America’s second National Park, after Yellowstone. Due to its somewhat remote location, the National Park Service gave Mackinac Island to Michigan in 1895. The island thus became Michigan’s first State Park …
The State Park Visitor Center is across from Marquette Park. This expansive green space is downtown’s gathering spot. From early morning through well into the evening, families and couples gather here to picnic, walk their dogs, and take in the gorgeous harbor views across the road.
Before the crowds start arriving mid morning, the park is a gathering place for seagulls. Dozens and dozens congregate here to scavenge and dry off in the early morning sun …
One of our favorite Mackinac Island businesses is directly across from Marquette Park. It’s Doud’s Market, the island’s only full service grocery store. We found ourselves popping in at Doud’s several times during our visit! Groceries, sundries, an ample beer and wine selection, and a fabulous deli counter for food to go all can be found here. Looking for a bottle of Michigan wine to enjoy on the island? Doud’s is the place to get it …
Did You Know? Doud’s Market is the oldest family operated grocery store in the United States, dating back to 1884.
Heading east from downtown and the Visitor Center, you’ll pass several stately historic island homes in the East Bluff area, the Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House, St. Anne’s Church, and more. The foot and bicycle traffic starts to thin out a bit as you approach one of Mackinac’s premier resorts, Mission Point …
Flower Chick was impressed by the colorful floral displays at the Mission Point Resort. There are beds of diverse dahlias on the expansive lawn down by the water and tennis courts. Hotel guests can relax and enjoy the view in one of the many white Adirondack chairs dotting the landscape.
This cheery plot (below) welcomes you to the property. Planted with begonias, alyssum, hydrangeas, black-eyed Susans and more … this is one of the many garden beds at Mission Point.
Just before you reach Mile Marker 1, you’ll see Dwightwood Spring on your left. This historic spring is the most famous of the natural flows of clear, cold water that dot the island. The pergola and benches were donated in memory of Dwight Wood, son of Edwin O. Wood, an early summer cottager and member of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission.
In the early years this spring quenched the thirst of many of the island’s visitors. However, using current water quality standards, it is not recommended to try this water as it is apparently unsafe to drink. You can touch it and splash on yourself to enjoy the cooling effect …The Perfect Companion For Your Perimeter Hike … Fanny Pack & Water Bottle Holder
Mile Marker 1 – Arch Rock
One mile done, seven plus to go! Don’t worry … it goes faster than you would think. Right after you spot the Mile Marker 1 post, you’ll see the amazing Arch Rock. This is the most famous of the rock formations on the island. Arch Rock towers above the water and is more than fifty feet wide. It can be reached by foot, taxi, carriage or bike at the end of the inland Botanical Trail also.
Arch Rock is a natural limestone arch formed during the Nipissing post-glacial period, a period of high Lake Huron levels following the end of the Wisconsin glaciation. (a little geological history here ; ) Its presence was a major element in the decision to create Mackinac National Park in 1875 and its successor, Mackinac Island State Park in 1895.
You can ascend 207 steps to the top of Mackinac Island to see the stunning Arch Rock up close. The climb is steep, but the views from next to it and from the observation platform are well worth it!
From the top you have super cool views of the lake and M-185 perimeter road below. This is one of the biggest tourist attractions on the island for good reason …
Walking from Mile Marker 1 to Mile Marker 2 there are many intriguing rock cairns … zen-like stone piles hand placed by people along the way. We spotted these calming structures throughout our trek on the shoreline.
Later, we found out that these are a Mackinac Island tradition. It’s sort of a non-permanent graffiti. Just people’s way of saying “I was here!” Unlike carving your name in a tree, these all get knocked down and moved around by snow and ice in the winter.Natural River Stone Rock Cairn Sculpture … Calming Effect For Your Home Or Office
The perimeter road curves a bit giving you a picturesque view of the water, rocks, trees and overall landscape. That’s another nice thing about walking the trail rather than riding a bike. You are more apt to catch the little things when you slow down …
Mile Marker 2 – Serenity Now
This part of the journey is very peaceful. Mainly photogenic vistas of the flora and fauna. A few well-fed plovers and seagulls fishing or resting on the rocks.
Michigan wildflowers grace the shores on historic Mackinac Island. You may spot butterfly weed, Canadian anemone, goldenrod, thistle, crown vetch, fireweed, and yellow lady’s slipper.
Insider Tip: Take as many pictures as you would like, but do not take plants. Wildflowers are protected on all Michigan public lands. There are 243 plants on the threatened or endangered list and they are protected under the Endangered Species Act.Relax To Nature Sounds – Perfect For Calming People and Pets … More Details Here
Next up is the Lake Shore Nature Trail. This is a beautiful “hidden place” on the island. A special spot that is quiet and peaceful. You can pause and take in the beauty of the pond, trees, sky and boardwalk …
It’s just a small loop that you can traverse in about 15 minutes. Take your time and enjoy nature at it’s finest! The sounds, the sights and the smells …
Mile Marker 3 – Natural Beauty
You can blink and miss Mile Marker 3 … it’s a little faded and set back in the foliage. Thankfully we found it so Flower Chick could take this photo.
The next mile from Point St. Clair to Point Aux Pins you’ll see unspoiled lake views with more lush flora and rugged shoreline as you make your way to the northern tip of the island.
Did You Know? Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchids are native to Mackinac, but highly elusive and hard to spot. Flower Chick did not find one this trip. If you see one, please make sure to take a photo and send it via my Contact Form. 🙂
On stretches of the perimeter road (M-185), tall cedars form a canopy of green above the road. The rise and fall of the lake levels in recent years has created areas where arborvitae trees took root when the lake went down, and now some struggle for survival as water swirls over their roots.
Mile Marker 4 – Mackinac Island’s Northernmost Point
Congratulations … You’ve now arrived at the approximate half way point of the perimeter walk around the island! This is the northernmost point of Mackinac Island before the road turns and heads southward along the western shore.
You start to see some lovely views of the majestic Mackinac Bridge as you head towards British Landing …Discover The Fascinating History Of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula … Click Here
British Landing, on the northwest side of the island, was where British forces landed as they captured Fort Mackinac and Mackinac Island away from the American troops during the first land skirmish of the War of 1812. British Landing has a dynamic view of Lake Huron, St. Ignace and the Mackinac Bridge (pictured below).
This is the perfect stop for a break … clean restrooms, drinking fountains, picnic tables and a casual bite to eat to fuel up for the rest of the walk. Cannonball Inn serves burgers, hot dogs, bbq beef, salads, stacked sandwiches, pizza, ice cream, famous fried pickles, candy, cookies, soda & bottled water.
In 1958, British Landing was added to the list of registered Michigan historic sites as Registered Site SO187. A historic marker was erected on the site.
The British Landing Nature Center is also located at this spot. Here you can learn about the plants and wildlife that call Mackinac Island home. Talk to a naturalist, read the interpretive panels, and explore the exhibits. It’s free to enjoy.
Depending on the season, some of the birds you can expect to see on Mackinac Island are: Indigo Bunting, American Redstart, Yellow Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Common Redpoll, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Blue Jay, Robin, Northern Cardinal, Pileated Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Long-tailed Duck, Mallard, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Snowy Owl, Barred Owl, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Bohemian Waxwing, Cedar Waxwing, Cooper’s Hawk, White-breasted Nuthatch, Ovenbird, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, and Purple Martin and more …Don’t Know One Bird From Another? No Worries … This Will Help You!
Did You Know? If you’d like to participate in a bird count, then the Mackinac Straits Christmas Bird Count is for you! This annual event consists of volunteers spending a full day counting the quantity and species of birds in a 7.5-mile radius. Mackinac Island is included in the 7.5 miles and the data collected is submitted as a nationwide effort for bird surveys.
Mile Marker 5 – Griffin Cove to Heriot Point
After a brief rest stop, you’re now ready to tackle the rest of the journey around the island! We started seeing a bit more bike and foot traffic around this mile marker …
Did You Know? Morning glories bloom from early summer to the first frost of fall. With slender stems and heart-shaped leaves, their trumpet-shaped flowers come in colors of pink, purple-blue, magenta, or white. Their fragrant, colorful flowers are not only attractive to our eyes but also beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds.
Flower Chick was delighted to see these morning glories growing along the road on a fence by a beachfront cottage. These vines will quickly cover trellises, pergolas, arches and fences. Perfect to create a colorful wall or to cover an unsightly area.
Besides the ubiquitous bike rentals on the island, you can also rent a horse & carriage to take on the perimeter road (or take a carriage tour with a seasoned driver so you can concentrate on the sights and scenery).
Speaking of animals, as you might expect, there is significantly less animal wildlife on Mackinac Island than the mainland. However, some species do thrive here …
Among the most commonly spotted are squirrels, chipmunks, and certain species of rabbits. Less common are red fox, muskrats, and raccoons. On occasion when winter ice conditions allow, deer, coyotes, and bobcats cross the frozen straits and arrive on the island …
In case you were curious, this is where we are on the map of the island. Around the bend is our next mile marker …
Mile Marker 6 – Sunset Rock & Devil’s Kitchen
Sometimes referred to as Chimney Rock, Sunset Rock is located on the western side of the island, just below Heriot Point. True to its name, it may be the best spot on Mackinac Island for sunset viewing.
Did You Know? Lilac trees do exceptionally well on Mackinac Island. It’s believed this is due to the island’s limestone rich alkaline soil. Every spring, Mackinac Island hosts a Lilac Festival when these beautiful trees are in full bloom …
Devil’s Kitchen is a small cave on the southwestern shore of the island. The cave was carved during the Nipissing post-glacial period by the waves of Lake Huron. It consists of two hollows in a rocky cliff, one directly on top of the other.
Why Devil’s Kitchen? Legend says it’s a place where evil spirits capture and eat people who get too close. The blackened limestone is residue from fires built by the evil spirits. We kept our distance and were content taking a photo of the outside …
Hang in there … you’re almost at the home stretch and Mile Marker 7.
Mile Marker 7 – The Grand Hotel & Back To Downtown
Adrenalin will kick in at this point in your journey around the perimeter of Mackinac Island. Just one more mile and you’ll be back to where you started … downtown by the harbor!
You can’t see much of the Grand Hotel from the perimeter road. Just a sneak peek from down below … Make sure to check out my post here, for a detailed tour of the Grand’s exquisite gardens.
The Boardwalk, first built in 1952 on the west end of town, provides a spot for strollers and sunset viewers to get great views of Lake Huron. It extends below the Grand Hotel’s pool all the way to the Hotel Iroquois in the downtown. The Boardwalk also gives visitors a glimpse of some of the island’s most colorful private homes and gardens.
Did You Know? Mackinac Island’s west bluff, seen here below, shelters much of the island from extreme winter weather. Like most sizeable islands, Mackinac is home to many “micro climates”, defined as pockets of areas with slightly different climate conditions than the surrounding landscape …
Some people picture Victorian homes as white in color. In reality, they were quite colorful as were their vibrant gardens. You’ll see many examples on the island of pristine, well-kept homes with gardens full of personality.
You are now back in the downtown! That’s quite an accomplishment walking the 8.2 miles around the perimeter of the island. It really gives you a sense of the whole island, the history, the scenery, the flora & fauna, and unspoiled lake views.
This where we started our journey at Mile Marker 0 …
More Special Places Around The Island
After we walked around the perimeter of this special island, we enjoyed a picnic from Doud’s Market by the harbor. It felt good to sit and relax a spell before hitting a few of the shops downtown and checking in at our hotel … the charming Market Street Inn.
Our hosts were so welcoming and delightful! They stored our luggage when we arrived on the island and texted us when our room was ready in this attractive bed & breakfast a block off the main drag. A lovely place to stay with delicious homemade breakfasts served on their appealing garden patio. The made-from-scratch fruit turnovers and tasty muffins were to die for!
After we freshened up and changed clothes we headed to the famous Pink Pony Bar & Restaurant. The Pink Pony is one of Mackinac Island’s favorites since 1948 . One of the most popular watering holes, place to dine, and music venues, the Pink Pony is located inside the Chippewa Hotel and serves a wide variety of cocktails including the sought-after “Rum Runner”. It’s located right on the water and it’s relaxed, low-key, and offers stellar views of the lake. Just arrive early and put your name on the waitlist … it’s in demand.
The Hotel Iroquois Gardens
The stunning gardens surrounding the Hotel Iroquois at 7485 Main Street are definitely worth a stop! This has been a Proven Winners Signature Garden since 2010. 100% of the plant material used in these show-stopping plots are the high quality Proven Winners branded perennials and annuals.
A cornucopia of colorful flowers and interesting foliage plants makes these Victorian-style gardens really pop. Make sure to walk down the path to their terrace overlooking the Straits of Mackinac for a beautiful view and more lush garden beds …
Among the plants Flower Chick spotted were verbena, coleus, ageratum, heuchera, geraniums, begonias, New Guinea impatiens, petunias, euphorbia, yarrow, coneflower, calibrachoa, sedum, lilies and hydrangeas. A creative mix!
Mackinac Island Perimeter Tour Summary
Walking the perimeter of Mackinac Island should definitely be on your “Bucket List”! As you can see it’s an unforgettable, photogenic trek around this tranquil island … where there are no cars – only bikes and horses (and your feet) as the modes of transportation.
Mackinac Island’s unspoiled natural beauty awaits …
Discover more of Mackinac Island’s Gems … Follow along as Flower Chick explores the gorgeous gardens of Mackinac Island – click here to explore